Commentary Magazine


Topic: gay marriage

North Carolina No Longer a Swing State?

Just last month, Mitt Romney and President Obama were tied in Rasmussen’s North Carolina poll. Now, Romney has an 8-point lead, according to Rasmussen. That’s a fairly significant shift, and the most likely culprit is obviously Obama’s endorsement of gay marriage:

Mitt Romney has moved out to an eight-point lead over President Obama in North Carolina after the two men were virtually tied a month ago.

The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in the Tar Heel State shows the putative Republican nominee earning 51% of the vote to Obama’s 43%. Two percent (2%) like some other candidate, and four percent (4%) are undecided. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

That’s a big change from last month when Romney posted a narrow 46% to 44% lead over the president in Rasmussen Reports’ first survey of the race in North Carolina.

Democrats have signaled North Carolina’s importance as a key swing state by deciding to hold their national convention in Charlotte this summer.

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Just last month, Mitt Romney and President Obama were tied in Rasmussen’s North Carolina poll. Now, Romney has an 8-point lead, according to Rasmussen. That’s a fairly significant shift, and the most likely culprit is obviously Obama’s endorsement of gay marriage:

Mitt Romney has moved out to an eight-point lead over President Obama in North Carolina after the two men were virtually tied a month ago.

The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in the Tar Heel State shows the putative Republican nominee earning 51% of the vote to Obama’s 43%. Two percent (2%) like some other candidate, and four percent (4%) are undecided. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

That’s a big change from last month when Romney posted a narrow 46% to 44% lead over the president in Rasmussen Reports’ first survey of the race in North Carolina.

Democrats have signaled North Carolina’s importance as a key swing state by deciding to hold their national convention in Charlotte this summer.

The Democrats have put themselves in something of a bind by deciding to hold the convention in North Carolina and consequently emphasizing its importance as a swing state. Even though North Carolina went for Obama by a miniscule margin in 2008, some political observers had already put it in the Romney column months ago. Jeff Zeleny at the New York Times excluded North Carolina from its swing state list back in March (he characterized it as “leans Republican,” but also added that it was the “most competitive [of the lean-Republican states] and could become a tossup as the campaign develops.”).

Ed Morrissey looks at the internals, which show Romney picking up a remarkable portion of Democrats in the state. Pay close attention to the women’s vote as well:

Independents break narrowly for Romney, 49/45, but Romney also gets 18% of Democrats while losing only 6% of Republicans.  That 18% of Democrats looks awfully close to the 20.3% that voted “no preference” in last week’s primary rather than cast a vote for Obama, too, for a little independent corroboration of that number.

Romney leads among men 50/44, but does even better among women, 53/41.  That will send a shiver up spines at Team Obama.  Rasmussen uses three age demos, and Obama wins the youngest, but only 50/39, another red flag. Romney wins wide majorities in the other two, including a whopping 68/30 split among seniors.

Jonathan wrote yesterday on the CBS News/New York Times poll, which showed Romney leading with women nationally. Like Obama’s gay marriage endorsement, the Democratic Party’s “war on women” rhetoric may have worked to energize the base and donors, but it’s not helping with swing voters.

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Obama’s Mask Continues to Slip

I wanted to add a few thoughts to Jonathan’s post, with which I entirely concur.

The CBS News/New York Times poll, if only because of the source, must be creating panic at Obama re-election headquarters. So afraid of the results are Team Obama that campaign officials are actually attacking the poll — whose sample of registered voters is weighted in favor of Democrats (36 percent Democrats, 30 percent Republicans, and 34 percent independents) – as “significantly biased” in favor of Republicans. Of course it is. And Republicans are the ones who are supposed to be members of a “faith-based community” instead of the “reality-based” one.

As bad as the results are — showing support for Romney among women to be higher than support for Obama among women — my hunch is that what’s really driving the president crazy is that 67 percent of Americans think Obama’s stand on same-sex marriage was done mostly for political reasons rather than principled ones.

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I wanted to add a few thoughts to Jonathan’s post, with which I entirely concur.

The CBS News/New York Times poll, if only because of the source, must be creating panic at Obama re-election headquarters. So afraid of the results are Team Obama that campaign officials are actually attacking the poll — whose sample of registered voters is weighted in favor of Democrats (36 percent Democrats, 30 percent Republicans, and 34 percent independents) – as “significantly biased” in favor of Republicans. Of course it is. And Republicans are the ones who are supposed to be members of a “faith-based community” instead of the “reality-based” one.

As bad as the results are — showing support for Romney among women to be higher than support for Obama among women — my hunch is that what’s really driving the president crazy is that 67 percent of Americans think Obama’s stand on same-sex marriage was done mostly for political reasons rather than principled ones.

President Obama, after all, has presented himself to us – and seems to fancy himself to be – a man of rare political integrity and courage. The narrative they would have us believe is that Obama is an individual driven by the highest and purist motivations. He doesn’t simply want our support; he wants our reverence, our respect, and our awe. It helps explain the cult-like nature of the 2008 campaign.

So for Obama to be seen as just another scheming politician must really grate at him.

The truth, of course, is Obama is just that. Even for a politician, his stands on same-sex marriage – he was for it, then against it, then neutral on it, before he once again came out in favor of it – have been transparently cynical. And for Vice President Biden of all people to receive credit for forcing Obama to embrace same-sex marriage has, as we know, enraged Obama’s top aides.

Obama’s mask continues to slip. He is nothing like the image he created (post-ideological, non-partisan, high-minded, inspirational, unifying). He is, it turns out, a very liberal, rather ruthless, and deeply cynical politician. The fact that he is these things doesn’t bother him in the least. But the fact that more and more Americans are aware he’s these things bothers him quite a lot.

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War on Women Backfiring on Obama

The New York Times believes the most interesting data coming out of the latest CBS News/New York Times poll is that the vast majority of Americans think President Obama’s endorsement of gay marriage last week was a cynical ploy to gain a political advantage. That’s the lede in their story about the poll. Considering that the mainstream media — including the Times — gave the statement laudatory coverage, it is surprising to learn that 67 percent of Americans think he did it “mostly for political reasons” rather than believing his story about him evolving and doing what was right. But there’s far worse news for the president in this survey than just the fact that after a few years in office two thirds of the electorate see through him like a sheet glass window. The really bad news is that his core election strategy of seeking to portray the Republicans and Mitt Romney as the enemies of women is not only failing to give him an advantage; it’s backfiring.

The poll shows Romney winning a head-to-head match up with the president by a margin of 46-43 percent. That is interesting, as it’s the first time since early January that Romney is beating Obama in this poll. But of even greater significance is that Romney leads the president among women by 46-44 percent. Only a month ago, Obama had a 49-43 percent edge among women. That this result would come after a month in which the Democrats have pounded Romney and the GOP and sought to portray them as waging a Republican war on women is astonishing. The war theme is apparently not convincing wavering females that a President Romney would harm them. Indeed, it may be having the opposite effect as — just as is the case with the gay marriage issue — many women seem to understand that the war tactic is a dishonest attempt to divert their attention from the more pressing issues relating to the economy.

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The New York Times believes the most interesting data coming out of the latest CBS News/New York Times poll is that the vast majority of Americans think President Obama’s endorsement of gay marriage last week was a cynical ploy to gain a political advantage. That’s the lede in their story about the poll. Considering that the mainstream media — including the Times — gave the statement laudatory coverage, it is surprising to learn that 67 percent of Americans think he did it “mostly for political reasons” rather than believing his story about him evolving and doing what was right. But there’s far worse news for the president in this survey than just the fact that after a few years in office two thirds of the electorate see through him like a sheet glass window. The really bad news is that his core election strategy of seeking to portray the Republicans and Mitt Romney as the enemies of women is not only failing to give him an advantage; it’s backfiring.

The poll shows Romney winning a head-to-head match up with the president by a margin of 46-43 percent. That is interesting, as it’s the first time since early January that Romney is beating Obama in this poll. But of even greater significance is that Romney leads the president among women by 46-44 percent. Only a month ago, Obama had a 49-43 percent edge among women. That this result would come after a month in which the Democrats have pounded Romney and the GOP and sought to portray them as waging a Republican war on women is astonishing. The war theme is apparently not convincing wavering females that a President Romney would harm them. Indeed, it may be having the opposite effect as — just as is the case with the gay marriage issue — many women seem to understand that the war tactic is a dishonest attempt to divert their attention from the more pressing issues relating to the economy.

Like last week’s Gallup poll, the CBS/Times survey also shows that the gay marriage decision is likely to cost the president some support. More voters say they are less likely to vote for the president as a result of his statement than those who say they are more likely to back him by a 22 to 14 percent margin.

Not all the results in the CBS/Times poll were unfavorable to the president. His job approval figure of 50 percent was the highest in two years other than the month Osama bin Laden was killed. And there is more optimism about the economy, with 36 percent saying they think it is getting better, a number that is also the highest in two years.

And yet despite the sense that the economy is not as bad as it has been, Obama is still losing to Romney and even losing among women, a group that has skewed heavily to the Democrats in the past two decades. What can account for this declining gender gap after a period when the president and his campaign have sought to emphasize the difference between the two parties on what they think are women’s issues?

The answer isn’t all that complicated. Though some liberals may be convinced there is a GOP war on women, most aren’t buying it any more than they believe the president’s flip-flop on gays was a principled stand. Whatever their positions on social issues, most women seem to believe that the economy and the well-being of their families is their primary concern and on that score, Obama has lost their confidence. And it’s not clear that it can be won back by ginning up fake controversies that are transparent attempts to demonize Obama’s opponents.

Even more to the point, after three and a half years in office, President Obama may have just worn out his welcome with many voters. Having made it to the White House as part of symbolic election in which all Americans could take pride in righting some great historic wrongs, there is no such rationale for his re-election. Tactics that seem to be merely a way to trick the voters into thinking ill of the GOP are falling flat. The poll may be a wake up call to the Democrats to drop their phony war on women and start concentrating on the bread and butter issue of the economy, which 62 percent of those surveyed say is the most important in the election (the second most is the federal deficit at only 11 percent) where Romney seems to have a strong advantage.

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Franklin Graham’s Selective Outrage

In response to President Obama’s embrace of same-sex marriage, the Reverend Franklin Graham put out a statement that said this:

On Tuesday, my state of North Carolina became the 31st state to approve a constitutional amendment defining marriage as being between a man and a woman. While the move to pass amendments defining marriage is relatively new, the definition of marriage is 8,000 years old and was defined not by man, but by God Himself. In changing his position from that of senator/candidate Obama, President Obama has, in my view, shaken his fist at the same God who created and defined marriage. It grieves me that our president would now affirm same-sex marriage, though I believe it grieves God even more. The institution of marriage should not be defined by presidents or polls, governors or the media. The definition was set long ago and changing legislation or policy will never change God’s definition. This is a sad day for America. May God help us.

About this statement, I have several thoughts, the first of which is that the definition of marriage has changed even within the Bible during those 8,000 years. For example, among the wealthy in ancient Israel, polygamy was a commonly accepted practice. Sarah gave her handmaiden Hagar to Abraham. Jacob married two sisters (Rachel and Leah). Esau had three wives. And marriages were often arranged. So even the Bible’s definition of marriage hasn’t been quite as static as Graham insists.

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In response to President Obama’s embrace of same-sex marriage, the Reverend Franklin Graham put out a statement that said this:

On Tuesday, my state of North Carolina became the 31st state to approve a constitutional amendment defining marriage as being between a man and a woman. While the move to pass amendments defining marriage is relatively new, the definition of marriage is 8,000 years old and was defined not by man, but by God Himself. In changing his position from that of senator/candidate Obama, President Obama has, in my view, shaken his fist at the same God who created and defined marriage. It grieves me that our president would now affirm same-sex marriage, though I believe it grieves God even more. The institution of marriage should not be defined by presidents or polls, governors or the media. The definition was set long ago and changing legislation or policy will never change God’s definition. This is a sad day for America. May God help us.

About this statement, I have several thoughts, the first of which is that the definition of marriage has changed even within the Bible during those 8,000 years. For example, among the wealthy in ancient Israel, polygamy was a commonly accepted practice. Sarah gave her handmaiden Hagar to Abraham. Jacob married two sisters (Rachel and Leah). Esau had three wives. And marriages were often arranged. So even the Bible’s definition of marriage hasn’t been quite as static as Graham insists.

Second, does Graham believe that then-Governor Ronald Reagan “shook his fist at the same God who created and defined marriage” when Reagan embraced the first no-fault divorce law in the nation? (Reagan also signed legislation liberalizing abortion laws when he was governor of California.) Nothing has done more to damage the institution of marriage than the “divorce revolution” that began in the late 1960s. In addition, and of particular relevance to Graham, Jesus was far more critical of divorce than he was of homosexuality (of which Jesus said nothing).

My point isn’t that there’s no Scriptural guidance on matters of sexual relations. Instead, it’s the selective nature of the outrage. If one were to list the catalogue of things that grieve the God of the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, it would be long – and near the top of the list would be indifference to the poor, pride, self-righteousness, anger, gossip, and hypocrisy. I image the people drafting press releases at the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association will be kept quite busy speaking out against these things.

I wonder if Franklin Graham realizes (as his father eventually did) that his forays into politics are beginning to undermine his ministry (this is a subject I’ve written about before. It appears that Graham is a fiercely conservative person whose politics is to some degree sculpturing his religious/political priorities. And Graham’s words and statements, at least in the political arena, are often censorious and lack a spirit of grace and reconciliation. It is one thing to state, in an intelligent and measured way, one’s objection to same-sex marriage. It is quite another for the president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association to say the president, in expressing his personal support for same-sex marriage, is “shaking his fist at God.” I say that as someone who shares Graham’s religious faith and probably agrees with him on most political issues. Yet his public pronouncements are at times cringe-inducing, his explanations shallow, his tone belligerent.

There is such a thing as being a winsome and effective witness to one’s faith. C.S. Lewis possessed those qualities. I wish Franklin Graham did.

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Newsweek’s “First Gay President” Cover

You thought Tina Brown was really going to bring the insanity to this week’s Newsweek cover, especially after she was one-upped by Time’s mind-scarring “Are you Mom Enough?” photo. But actually, the cover is relatively tame. The over-the-top Obama worship at these weeklies has lost its shock value, and the “First Gay President” line was a pundit trope as soon as Obama wrapped up his ABC interview last week. Politico’s Dylan Byers has the summary of Andrew Sullivan’s cover story:

It’s easy to write off President Obama’s announcement of his support for gay marriage as a political ploy during an election year. But don’t believe the cynics. Andrew Sullivan argues that this announcement has been in the making for years. “When you step back a little and assess the record of Obama on gay rights, you see, in fact, that this was not an aberration. It was an inevitable culmination of three years of work.” And President Obama has much in common with the gay community. “He had to discover his black identity and then reconcile it with his white family, just as gays discover their homosexual identity and then have to reconcile it with their heterosexual family,” Sullivan writes.

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You thought Tina Brown was really going to bring the insanity to this week’s Newsweek cover, especially after she was one-upped by Time’s mind-scarring “Are you Mom Enough?” photo. But actually, the cover is relatively tame. The over-the-top Obama worship at these weeklies has lost its shock value, and the “First Gay President” line was a pundit trope as soon as Obama wrapped up his ABC interview last week. Politico’s Dylan Byers has the summary of Andrew Sullivan’s cover story:

It’s easy to write off President Obama’s announcement of his support for gay marriage as a political ploy during an election year. But don’t believe the cynics. Andrew Sullivan argues that this announcement has been in the making for years. “When you step back a little and assess the record of Obama on gay rights, you see, in fact, that this was not an aberration. It was an inevitable culmination of three years of work.” And President Obama has much in common with the gay community. “He had to discover his black identity and then reconcile it with his white family, just as gays discover their homosexual identity and then have to reconcile it with their heterosexual family,” Sullivan writes.

Obviously, this story was supposed to be a boost for Obama, but conservatives are already pointing out that the cover is a gift for Mitt Romney. Yes, the regular readership of Newsweek (and Andrew Sullivan) loves this sort of  Obama fawning. But they’re not the only people who are going to see this, and they’re already voting for him anyway. This cover is going to be on newsstands. It’s going to be in the checkout line at the grocery store. It’s going to be on the news rack at highway gas stations across the Midwest and the south. And it’s going to be viewed very differently in those areas of the country than it will be in the Northeast and West Coast.

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Obama Solidifies the GOP Base for Romney

The rationale behind President Obama’s decision to flip-flop on gay marriage and come out in favor of the idea isn’t any mystery. Democratic strategists rightly believe that any issue – no matter how divisive — that diverts attention from a failing economy is good for the president’s re-election campaign. That is why most Republicans have reacted to the matter with an impatient desire to get people talking about discouraging employment and growth figures. But that doesn’t mean the GOP didn’t reap an important dividend from last week’s big story.

The mainstream media has lionized the president for his stand, and most Americans may be either pleased or at least unopposed to gay marriage. But by choosing to embark on this initiative, President Obama has done his opponent in the November election a big favor. One of Mitt Romney’s biggest problems was the clear lack of enthusiasm for his candidacy on the part of his party’s base. But the endorsement of gay marriage is exactly what the Republican standard bearer needed to mobilize an army of evangelicals who were looking for a reason to get excited about an election in which they weren’t very happy about their choices. As the warm reception that Romney got at Liberty University this past weekend shows, he needn’t worry about his centrist image depressing the turnout figures among this key sector of Republican voters.

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The rationale behind President Obama’s decision to flip-flop on gay marriage and come out in favor of the idea isn’t any mystery. Democratic strategists rightly believe that any issue – no matter how divisive — that diverts attention from a failing economy is good for the president’s re-election campaign. That is why most Republicans have reacted to the matter with an impatient desire to get people talking about discouraging employment and growth figures. But that doesn’t mean the GOP didn’t reap an important dividend from last week’s big story.

The mainstream media has lionized the president for his stand, and most Americans may be either pleased or at least unopposed to gay marriage. But by choosing to embark on this initiative, President Obama has done his opponent in the November election a big favor. One of Mitt Romney’s biggest problems was the clear lack of enthusiasm for his candidacy on the part of his party’s base. But the endorsement of gay marriage is exactly what the Republican standard bearer needed to mobilize an army of evangelicals who were looking for a reason to get excited about an election in which they weren’t very happy about their choices. As the warm reception that Romney got at Liberty University this past weekend shows, he needn’t worry about his centrist image depressing the turnout figures among this key sector of Republican voters.

Throughout the campaign, the conventional wisdom has been that like 2008 GOP nominee John McCain, Romney would have trouble getting conservatives to care enough about his candidacy to work hard for his election. Moreover, even after he wrapped up the nomination, the fear has been that he would be caught between the twin perils of having to either continue to pander to evangelicals in the general election or losing them by shifting back to the center for the general election.

But Obama solved that problem for Romney with a single stroke that reminded Christian conservatives why they have no alternative but to turn out in November. When weighed against this blow to their values, factors such as Romney’s history of changed positions on abortion, his lack of fluency with the idiom of social conservative rhetoric and the unfortunate hesitancy on the part of some evangelicals to back a Mormon count for nothing.

After the administration’s assault on the Catholic Church in which the president’s signature health care program was used to force it to pay for practices it preaches against, there is a heightened awareness that religious freedom is going to be an issue in the election. And though, as the New York Times reports, the president has sought in the days after his decision to allay the fears of many pastors that his gay marriage stand will lead to government punishment of those faiths that don’t go along with his view, there is little doubt this is an unstated threat that scares many religious Americans. The example of Catholic and Orthodox Jewish institutions being run out of the adoption field in some states because of their views on gays is instructive.

President Obama needn’t fear African-American disaffection because of this issue even though many share the social conservative views of their white evangelical counterparts. In spite of their differences with this president on this point, black churches will continue to be rallying points for the president’s re-election.

But by pinning hopes on a belief that pushing liberal stands on social issues is the key to re-election, Obama has relieved Romney of the burden of having to spend any of the next six months worrying about whether evangelicals will turn out for him.

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Could Gay Marriage Mean No Second Term?

President Obama’s endorsement of gay marriage this past week brought with it a variety of benefits to his re-election effort. It energized his base and may well be a spur to more fundraising success, especially in Hollywood. Just as important, it engendered a chorus of unadulterated praise from the mainstream media that fits in well with the attempt to recapture the luster of his “hope and change” campaign in 2008 that hinged on the historic nature of his candidacy. The only question was whether it would cost him more votes from those who disagree than it would cause pro-gay rights voters to become supporters.

On the surface, a new Gallup poll conducted in the aftermath of the announcement seems to reassure the president’s camp that there was no danger of it harming his chances. The survey reports a clear majority of Americans — 51-45 percent — agree with him. Even more reassuring is that the decision won’t affect the votes of the vast majority, as 60 percent say it will make no difference and 13 percent assert it will make them more likely to vote for his re-election. Only 26 percent claim this will make them less likely to vote for him. But within these figures is still some very bad news for the president. The numbers show far more votes will be lost as a result of his stand than gained, especially in the center where the election will probably be decided.

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President Obama’s endorsement of gay marriage this past week brought with it a variety of benefits to his re-election effort. It energized his base and may well be a spur to more fundraising success, especially in Hollywood. Just as important, it engendered a chorus of unadulterated praise from the mainstream media that fits in well with the attempt to recapture the luster of his “hope and change” campaign in 2008 that hinged on the historic nature of his candidacy. The only question was whether it would cost him more votes from those who disagree than it would cause pro-gay rights voters to become supporters.

On the surface, a new Gallup poll conducted in the aftermath of the announcement seems to reassure the president’s camp that there was no danger of it harming his chances. The survey reports a clear majority of Americans — 51-45 percent — agree with him. Even more reassuring is that the decision won’t affect the votes of the vast majority, as 60 percent say it will make no difference and 13 percent assert it will make them more likely to vote for his re-election. Only 26 percent claim this will make them less likely to vote for him. But within these figures is still some very bad news for the president. The numbers show far more votes will be lost as a result of his stand than gained, especially in the center where the election will probably be decided.

Though the headline may say most votes won’t be affected by gay marriage, one needn’t go too deep into the results to figure out that this means  twice as many voters could be lost to Obama on this issue than he would win. Even more depressing for Democrats is that independents are the most affected by the issue, with 23 percent registering less interest in voting for the president and only 11 percent with more support.

As Gallup’s own analysis concludes:

Those figures suggest Obama’s gay marriage position is likely to cost him more independent and Democratic votes than he would gain in independent and Republican votes, clearly indicating that his new position is more of a net minus than a net plus for him.

There is little doubt that Obama’s flip-flop on gay marriage (he supported it as an Illinois state senator, prudently opposed it when running for the U.S. Senate and for the presidency but now endorses it) is because he believes it is vital to energize the Democrats’ base. Neither Obama nor Romney can hope to win without the enthusiasm of their party’s core, but in an election that tracking polls tell us is a virtual dead heat, any issue that has the potential to lose twice as many vital independents as it can win is a possible death blow.

As the results in the North Carolina referendum this week showed, as much as there has been a sea change in American culture on gays, there is still stiff resistance to tinkering with the traditional definition of marriage. That is especially true in swing states that Obama won in 2008 such as North Carolina, Virginia and Ohio but which are up for grabs this year.

Thus, while the president is reaping the hosannas of the mainstream liberal media and possibly raking in even more Hollywood donations, his “evolution” on the issue may wind up costing him states he can’t afford to lose in November.

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Obama’s Political Distractions May Backfire

As I’ve been writing this, the link to today’s Rasmussen poll showing Mitt Romney with a growing lead on Obama has gone dead and then come back up (possibly because it’s headlining Drudge), but here’s the relevant part of the findings from HotAir’s Ed Morrissey:

The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Friday shows Mitt Romney earning 50% of the vote and President Obama attracting 43% support. Four percent (4%) would vote for a third party candidate, while another three percent (3%) are undecided.

This is the first time Romney has reached the 50% level of support and is his largest lead ever over the president. It comes a week after a disappointing jobs report that raised new questions about the state of the economy.

This is a daily tracking poll, and keep in mind that those tend to be more prone to static. But this is still Romney’s biggest lead on Obama yet, and it does follow a trend. Yesterday’s Rasmussen daily tracker had Romney leading Obama by 4 percent. The two days before that, Romney was up by 5 percent. He was leading by 2 percent on May 7th, one percent on May 6th, and trailed Obama by one point on May 5th. So clearly there has been consistent upward movement for Romney.

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As I’ve been writing this, the link to today’s Rasmussen poll showing Mitt Romney with a growing lead on Obama has gone dead and then come back up (possibly because it’s headlining Drudge), but here’s the relevant part of the findings from HotAir’s Ed Morrissey:

The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Friday shows Mitt Romney earning 50% of the vote and President Obama attracting 43% support. Four percent (4%) would vote for a third party candidate, while another three percent (3%) are undecided.

This is the first time Romney has reached the 50% level of support and is his largest lead ever over the president. It comes a week after a disappointing jobs report that raised new questions about the state of the economy.

This is a daily tracking poll, and keep in mind that those tend to be more prone to static. But this is still Romney’s biggest lead on Obama yet, and it does follow a trend. Yesterday’s Rasmussen daily tracker had Romney leading Obama by 4 percent. The two days before that, Romney was up by 5 percent. He was leading by 2 percent on May 7th, one percent on May 6th, and trailed Obama by one point on May 5th. So clearly there has been consistent upward movement for Romney.

But what does it mean? It may be too early to tie it to the gay marriage debate, and the WaPo hit on Romney’s high school pranks probably hasn’t had enough time to seep into the public consciousness yet. So it’s too soon to say that attack has been a failure.

Based on Rasmussen’s report, it could be tied to economic factors. Likely voters are giving Romney much higher marks on the economy than Obama:

Thirty-seven percent (37%) give the president good or excellent marks for his handling of the economy.  Forty-eight percent (48%) say he’s doing a poor job. Consumer confidence has slipped four points since last week’s government report on job creation and unemployment. The number who believe their personal finances are getting better slipped from 30% a week ago to 28% today. The number who fear their finances are getting worse increased from 43% before the jobs report to 47% today.

This fits with Gallup’s poll numbers today, which also show Romney with an edge over Obama on economic issues, despite the fact that this subject hasn’t really dominated the political news cycle later. Could it be that the Obama campaign’s attempt to divert the race from economic news to social and cultural issues is actually hurting him with voters? The Obama campaign has spent the past few weeks talking about everything from Romney’s dog to Osama bin Laden to gay marriage, while Romney has remained fairly focused on the economy. Maybe voters view distractions as a lack of seriousness on Obama’s part.

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When a Flip-Flop Becomes an “Evolution”

Question: When does a flip flop become an evolution? Answer: When the flip-flop leads to a liberal outcome.

I have in mind the omnipresent use by the media of President Obama’s “evolution” on gay marriage. In fact, this evolution was a rather jagged one.

As it’s been pointed out on this web site before, in 1996, Obama said he supported gay marriage. Then, in 2004, he said he opposed gay marriage. He reiterated that stand in 2008. Then, after Obama was elected president, he was neutral on the subject. And now that he’s (re)-embraced his position from more than 15 years ago, the press – using precisely the word Obama does to describe his shifting stance – says the president has “evolved.” As in “became more enlightened.”

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Question: When does a flip flop become an evolution? Answer: When the flip-flop leads to a liberal outcome.

I have in mind the omnipresent use by the media of President Obama’s “evolution” on gay marriage. In fact, this evolution was a rather jagged one.

As it’s been pointed out on this web site before, in 1996, Obama said he supported gay marriage. Then, in 2004, he said he opposed gay marriage. He reiterated that stand in 2008. Then, after Obama was elected president, he was neutral on the subject. And now that he’s (re)-embraced his position from more than 15 years ago, the press – using precisely the word Obama does to describe his shifting stance – says the president has “evolved.” As in “became more enlightened.”

To take the important point made by Jonathan on Mitt Romney and abortion in a slightly different direction, here’s a thought experiment. Assume that a decade-and-a-half ago Romney opposed same sex marriage. Then, running for office in Massachusetts, he embraced same-sex marriage. But now, running for president, he announced he once again opposes gay marriage. Do you think the press would describe his position as having “evolved”? Or would the word “benighted” more accurately reflect the tone and spirit of the media’s coverage of Romney?

Just wondering.

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Will Gay Marriage Endorsement Help Obama in Hollywood?

Michael Hastings reports on President Obama’s waning support in Tinseltown:

Over the past week, I’d spoken to more than a dozen Hollywood players, and all had a litany of criticisms. “I’ll write the check,” one top producer, whose films have made over a billion at the box office, told me. “But I’m not going to bother voting for him.” Another studio exec—in a land where the hard driven deal is cultural requirement —wondered if the president’s penchant for compromise meant he had, in the parlance of our times, “no balls.”

A number of other actors and producers lamented how they’d gone so far as to donate and volunteer for Obama in 2008—and now, disgusted, they were planning on doing neither this time around. They had bought what Obama was selling for four years—about the wars, about Gitmo, about changing things in Washington, about the hope and the change—and Obama had let them down. Even Matt Damon—one of the president’s most stalwart celebrity supporters—famously said last year he was disappointed.

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Michael Hastings reports on President Obama’s waning support in Tinseltown:

Over the past week, I’d spoken to more than a dozen Hollywood players, and all had a litany of criticisms. “I’ll write the check,” one top producer, whose films have made over a billion at the box office, told me. “But I’m not going to bother voting for him.” Another studio exec—in a land where the hard driven deal is cultural requirement —wondered if the president’s penchant for compromise meant he had, in the parlance of our times, “no balls.”

A number of other actors and producers lamented how they’d gone so far as to donate and volunteer for Obama in 2008—and now, disgusted, they were planning on doing neither this time around. They had bought what Obama was selling for four years—about the wars, about Gitmo, about changing things in Washington, about the hope and the change—and Obama had let them down. Even Matt Damon—one of the president’s most stalwart celebrity supporters—famously said last year he was disappointed.

Obviously, the Obama campaign is hoping the early gay marriage endorsement will help energize big Democratic donors who were still sitting on the sidelines, particularly Hollywood liberals. And the timing couldn’t be better. Obama has a much-publicized fundraiser tonight at George Clooney’s house, and early next week he attends a fundraiser with Ricky Martin that’s reportedly aimed at donors in the gay community.

The question is, will his announcement be enough to coax out the checkbooks? Obama’s gay marriage endorsement has no real practical effect, and his policies haven’t changed. He still maintains it’s a state-by-state issue. And as others have noted, he only announced his position publicly after days of political pressure. Fortunately for Obama, Hollywood doesn’t tend to be well-informed on these issues. And that will definitely work to his advantage as he tries to woo back these donors.

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One Man’s Role in Gay Rights Shift

Wherever one stands on the issue of same-sex marriage, having the president of the United States endorse the concept is a major achievement for the gay rights movement. And it didn’t happen by accident.

The shift in the public’s attitudes toward gay marriage, and the subsequent alteration of the political landscape, is arguably the most significant we’ve seen in the last quarter-century. And among the people who are most responsible for this moment is Jonathan Rauch, a former columnist for National Journal and a guest scholar at the Brookings Institution.

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Wherever one stands on the issue of same-sex marriage, having the president of the United States endorse the concept is a major achievement for the gay rights movement. And it didn’t happen by accident.

The shift in the public’s attitudes toward gay marriage, and the subsequent alteration of the political landscape, is arguably the most significant we’ve seen in the last quarter-century. And among the people who are most responsible for this moment is Jonathan Rauch, a former columnist for National Journal and a guest scholar at the Brookings Institution.

I first met Jonathan in 1994, at a lunch with William Bennett. We wanted to meet Rauch because of his book Demosclerosis: The Silent Killer of American Government. The three of us talked about that book – but Rauch also made the case for why homosexuality is no threat to family or conservatism. A short time later he published a Wall Street Journal op-ed on that matter – and he later wrote articles (see here), books (see here), and op-eds (see here and here) making the case for same-sex marriage.

There are three elements to Rauch’s work worth highlighting. The first is the ingenuity of the argument. His great insight, which he shared with Andrew Sullivan (another extremely significant figure in the fight for gay marriage), was to recast the goals of the gay rights movement away from sexual libertinism toward conservatism, from radicalism toward traditionalism. Same-sex marriage, this argument goes, would bond gays into committed, stable relationships and promote monogamy. The gay rights agenda went from being an assault on the institution to an effort to become part of it.

The second thing to note in Rauch’s work is the rigor of his arguments. Anyone who has read Rauch knows he takes the case against same-sex marriage and examines the premises and empirical statements with tremendous care. His goal is to use reason to show why gay marriage will preserve and protect society’s most essential institution. Beyond that, though, Rauch habitually describes the views of those with whom he disagrees in honest, fair-minded terms.

The third thing about Rauch is his tone, which is consistently measured, civil, and respectful. In a debate in which ugly things have been said on all sides, Rauch has never in my experience attacked the motivations of his opponents. He gives the benefit of the doubt even to his critics. That is not only an impressive human quality; it’s also extremely helpful when you start out with a position in which you need to persuade large number of people who disagree with you.

I should add that I’m not in full agreement with Jonathan on gay marriage, even though his arguments have shifted my thinking in important respects. And he and I had our policy differences during the Bush years. But every time we discussed them, either in person or via e-mail, I was struck by his integrity and open-mindedness. That I’ve come to admire him is no secret. Which is why, on a day that was extremely meaningful to gay Americans, I couldn’t help but think about Rauch’s crucial role in all that has unfolded in the last few years.

 

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Who’s the Phony? Romney or Obama?

As Pete noted yesterday, the talk about the evolution of President Obama’s stand on gay marriage tends to gloss over the fact that rather than a straight path to enlightenment, it has been a typical cynical politician’s approach to controversy. Since he supported it while running for the State Senate, opposed it while running for the Senate in 2004 and for the presidency in 2008 and now supports it again in 2012, we can see that his position was not principled but the product of careful analysis about the needs of the voters he was facing in each case. This is hardly shocking, but I suspect the president won’t be branded as a flip-flopper by his adoring fans in the mainstream press.

That’s significant not so much because it reveals the media’s bias on social issues but because it shows the different standard to which Mitt Romney has been subjected for his stands on social issues by some of the same outlets that are celebrating Obama’s statement today. Though Democratic strategists are currently attempting to paint Romney as a right-wing extremist, for most of the last year they and their allies in the press regularly lambasted Romney for being a serial flip-flopper. But in the wake of Obama’s politically motivated zigzag path to support for gay marriage, isn’t it time to acknowledge there is no difference between that and Romney’s equally tortured route to opposition to abortion?

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As Pete noted yesterday, the talk about the evolution of President Obama’s stand on gay marriage tends to gloss over the fact that rather than a straight path to enlightenment, it has been a typical cynical politician’s approach to controversy. Since he supported it while running for the State Senate, opposed it while running for the Senate in 2004 and for the presidency in 2008 and now supports it again in 2012, we can see that his position was not principled but the product of careful analysis about the needs of the voters he was facing in each case. This is hardly shocking, but I suspect the president won’t be branded as a flip-flopper by his adoring fans in the mainstream press.

That’s significant not so much because it reveals the media’s bias on social issues but because it shows the different standard to which Mitt Romney has been subjected for his stands on social issues by some of the same outlets that are celebrating Obama’s statement today. Though Democratic strategists are currently attempting to paint Romney as a right-wing extremist, for most of the last year they and their allies in the press regularly lambasted Romney for being a serial flip-flopper. But in the wake of Obama’s politically motivated zigzag path to support for gay marriage, isn’t it time to acknowledge there is no difference between that and Romney’s equally tortured route to opposition to abortion?

Social conservatives roasted the GOP standard bearer in the past year for having supported abortion rights while running for office in Massachusetts in 1994 and 2002. Liberal kibitzers were happy to chime in when right-wingers doubted the sincerity of Romney’s conversion to a right-to-life position just before he began preparing to run for president. Though the Republican candidate claims he had a genuine change of heart, both liberals and conservatives are to be forgiven if they think it had more to do with the fact that a supporter of abortion had no chance of winning a national Republican race while the opposite was true in Massachusetts.

But the same calculations apply to Obama’s stands on same-sex marriage. He supported it while running for office in Chicago but said the opposite when he was looking to win a statewide race in Illinois and the presidency at a time when such a stand would have cost him votes. Now that his pollsters — and Hollywood contributors — tell him that changing his tune will be popular, he’s flipped again. Which makes him every bit the phony that Romney’s detractors say he is. The only difference is that the liberal press will always treat a candidate who moves to their position on an issue as having evolved but speak of one who moved away from their beliefs as a cynical flip-flopper.

To be fair to Romney, it should be noted that on the one issue which might have cost him the Republican presidential nomination, he refused to change his stand when doing so would have helped his candidacy. Romney’s Massachusetts health care bill was his greatest electoral liability heading into the GOP primaries. It was rightly perceived as resembling if not inspiring ObamaCare. Republican rivals said that Romney’s support of government health care would undermine the party’s chance to use the issue against the president in 2012.

But rather than distance himself from his record, Romney doubled down on it repeatedly, insisting that while he opposed Obama’s bill, the Massachusetts legislation was not a mistake. Doing so may have cost him some votes and may yet hurt him in the fall. But he did not waver.

Looked at in this light, it’s clear that though Romney’s record contains its share of flip-flops, he needn’t blush when compared to Obama. Neither can claim to be consistent on social issues. The only difference is that the media calls one a phony and gives the other accolades for similar behavior.

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Gay Marriage Debate Moves to Congress

Rudy Giuliani was on CBS News this morning cautioning Republicans to stay out of the gay marriage debate. It looks like he’s a bit late. Last night, the House passed a Republican-backed bill that would prevent the Justice Department from using taxpayer funds to oppose the Defense of Marriage Act, Politico reports:

With a 245-171 vote, the House voted to stop the Justice Department from using taxpayer funds to actively oppose DOMA — the Clinton-era law defining marriage as between a man and a woman that the Obama administration stopped enforcing in February 2011. …

Democrats immediately attacked Republicans for the vote.

“On an historic day and in the dark of night, House Republicans have voted to tie the hands of the Obama administration with respect to their efforts to end discrimination against America’s families,” Drew Hammill, a spokesman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), said in a statement. “House Republicans continue to plant their feet firmly on the wrong side of history.”

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Rudy Giuliani was on CBS News this morning cautioning Republicans to stay out of the gay marriage debate. It looks like he’s a bit late. Last night, the House passed a Republican-backed bill that would prevent the Justice Department from using taxpayer funds to oppose the Defense of Marriage Act, Politico reports:

With a 245-171 vote, the House voted to stop the Justice Department from using taxpayer funds to actively oppose DOMA — the Clinton-era law defining marriage as between a man and a woman that the Obama administration stopped enforcing in February 2011. …

Democrats immediately attacked Republicans for the vote.

“On an historic day and in the dark of night, House Republicans have voted to tie the hands of the Obama administration with respect to their efforts to end discrimination against America’s families,” Drew Hammill, a spokesman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), said in a statement. “House Republicans continue to plant their feet firmly on the wrong side of history.”

Interesting timing, no? Actually the measure, which was sponsored by Rep. Tim Huelskamp and tacked to a broader multi-agency funding bill, appears to be completely unrelated to Obama’s announcement. Metro Weekly first reported on Tuesday – before anyone had any inkling about Obama’s gay marriage shift – that Huelskamp was preparing to offer the amendment this week.

Peter noted last night that Obama was smart to wait until after the North Carolina vote to offer his opinion – if he’d endorsed gay marriage beforehand, surely the narrative now would be that Obama’s position was rejected by swing state voters.

But Obama was also savvy to make his announcement around the same time the House GOP was set to vote on the DOMA funding amendment. Mitt Romney has already rebuffed questions on this issue, and, as expected, tried to shift the focus back to jobs and the economy. But House Republicans, the Obama campaign’s go-to adversaries, are already providing a prime contrast to the president’s newly-announced position.

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Obama’s Evolution on Same-Sex Marriage

The evolution, it appears, is now complete. Barack Obama – who once supported same-sex marriages (when he ran for state senator in Illinois in 1996), then opposed them (when he ran for Senate in 2004 against Alan Keyes), and then was unsure what he thought (as president) – told ABC’s Robin Roberts, “I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.” The president added that this is a personal position and he still supports the concept of states deciding the issue on their own.

I have several thoughts on this development, beginning with the wisdom of the timing. The president announced his position one day after voters in North Carolina voted to support adding an amendment on marriage to its constitution, banning same-sex marriage. As a friend pointed out to me, the president was shrewd to wait until after yesterday’s vote, which allows him to look like he is willing to buck public opinion rather than looking like his endorsement carried no weight in the vote.

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The evolution, it appears, is now complete. Barack Obama – who once supported same-sex marriages (when he ran for state senator in Illinois in 1996), then opposed them (when he ran for Senate in 2004 against Alan Keyes), and then was unsure what he thought (as president) – told ABC’s Robin Roberts, “I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.” The president added that this is a personal position and he still supports the concept of states deciding the issue on their own.

I have several thoughts on this development, beginning with the wisdom of the timing. The president announced his position one day after voters in North Carolina voted to support adding an amendment on marriage to its constitution, banning same-sex marriage. As a friend pointed out to me, the president was shrewd to wait until after yesterday’s vote, which allows him to look like he is willing to buck public opinion rather than looking like his endorsement carried no weight in the vote.

Then there is Obama’s explanation for his decision, which was both intelligent and familiar to those who have followed this debate. But there was also, as there almost always is with Obama, an element of moral preening.

“This is something that, you know, we have talked about over the years and [Michelle], you know, she feels the same way, she feels the same way that I do,” Obama said.

And that is that, in the end the values that I care most deeply about and she cares most deeply about is how we treat other people and, you know, I, you know, we are both practicing Christians and obviously this position may be considered to put us at odds with the views of others but, you know, when we think about our faith, the thing at root that we think about is, not only Christ sacrificing himself on our behalf, but it’s also the Golden Rule, you know, treat others the way you would want to be treated. And I think that’s what we try to impart to our kids and that’s what motivates me as president and I figure the most consistent I can be in being true to those precepts, the better I’ll be as a as a dad and a husband and hopefully the better I’ll be as president.

Set aside for the moment the theological dimensions of this issue, which are far more complicated than Obama portrays. What the president has done is not simply shift his position; it’s that he justifies his shift as something Jesus would support. The argument being deployed goes something like this: Michelle and I are practicing Christians. What we care most deeply about is how we treat other people. We believe in the Golden Rule. And if you do, you’ll support same-sex marriage. If you don’t, you’ll oppose it.

Is it uncouth to point out that in 2004, when it was politically convenient for him, Obama argued that his religious faith dictated that marriage should be between a man and a woman? Now his faith dictates the opposite. What has changed during the last eight years isn’t the Golden Rule or the words and teachings of Jesus, the New Testament, or the Hebrew Bible; it is what is most politically expedient for a certain politician from Chicago.

Barack Obama wouldn’t be the first politician to shape his views based on the prevailing political winds and the needs of the moment. There are certainly serious arguments to be made on behalf of same-sex marriage, just as there are serious arguments to be made against it. But what I hope we’ll be spared from is Obama, having gone back and forth and back again on gay marriage, lecturing us about how his latest stance is the only principled and morally justifiable one.

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The Politics of Marriage in the Obama Era

Proponents of gay marriage will celebrate today’s statement by President Obama in which he put himself on the side of changing the traditional definition of marriage as a courageous stand that marks a turning point in the nation’s attitudes on the issue. But as with the case of his positions on human rights crises in Libya and Syria, the president was “leading from behind” as he is just the latest major figure in his party to jump on the gay marriage bandwagon. There is no question that support for greater acceptance of gays and even a willingness to contemplate some form of civil unions or gay marriage is widespread and not limited to the political left. Changing attitudes on the part of large sectors of the public who have more of a libertarian than a traditional approach have rendered Obama’s position more a function of the center than the margins.

The decision also reflects a belief among Democratic strategists that even the most divisive social issues work in their favor, because any debate on abortion, contraception or gay rights allows them to paint the entire GOP as intolerant. Just as they were able to turn a discussion about the way ObamaCare attacked the religious freedom of the Catholic Church into one about a bogus war on women, they may now think a gay marriage initiative will work the same way in convincing the people who voted for Obama in 2008 they must turn out to fend off the GOP this year. In making this statement in the middle of his re-election bid after years of dithering on the issue, the president is sending a signal he believes this is the sort of thing he needs to do to fire up his otherwise unenthusiastic base. Rather than a “profile in courage” moment, Obama’s gay marriage stand seems more like an attempt to rekindle the flagging passion of the “hope” and “change” fan base.

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Proponents of gay marriage will celebrate today’s statement by President Obama in which he put himself on the side of changing the traditional definition of marriage as a courageous stand that marks a turning point in the nation’s attitudes on the issue. But as with the case of his positions on human rights crises in Libya and Syria, the president was “leading from behind” as he is just the latest major figure in his party to jump on the gay marriage bandwagon. There is no question that support for greater acceptance of gays and even a willingness to contemplate some form of civil unions or gay marriage is widespread and not limited to the political left. Changing attitudes on the part of large sectors of the public who have more of a libertarian than a traditional approach have rendered Obama’s position more a function of the center than the margins.

The decision also reflects a belief among Democratic strategists that even the most divisive social issues work in their favor, because any debate on abortion, contraception or gay rights allows them to paint the entire GOP as intolerant. Just as they were able to turn a discussion about the way ObamaCare attacked the religious freedom of the Catholic Church into one about a bogus war on women, they may now think a gay marriage initiative will work the same way in convincing the people who voted for Obama in 2008 they must turn out to fend off the GOP this year. In making this statement in the middle of his re-election bid after years of dithering on the issue, the president is sending a signal he believes this is the sort of thing he needs to do to fire up his otherwise unenthusiastic base. Rather than a “profile in courage” moment, Obama’s gay marriage stand seems more like an attempt to rekindle the flagging passion of the “hope” and “change” fan base.

Acceptance of gays is now commonplace in much of American culture, especially in popular entertainment where the depiction of gay couples is not thoroughly uncontroversial. To the extent that this reflects the gradual dying out of prejudice against homosexuals, this is to be applauded. But the problem here is the consequent desire of some in government to impose their values on all Americans. Tolerance and acceptance of gays has often been translated into discrimination against religious institutions that differ on the legitimacy of same-sex marriage if not on the rights of gay individuals. That is why Catholic and some Orthodox Jewish agencies have been chased out of adoption services much to the detriment of children in need.

Once we strip away the political cynicism from the president’s statement what we find is an unbalanced approach that will, in the hands of all-powerful government agencies that Obama and the Democrats seek to make even more unaccountable, launch a new wave of discrimination against those who cannot for religious reasons accept gay marriage on these terms. It is on this point that many Americans who might otherwise be inclined to accept the president’s decision must demur.

As has been made apparent on many recent occasions when voters in states as diverse as North Carolina and California have been asked whether they wish to change the definition of marriage, the answer of the majority is no. Some may consider this a civil rights question in which the majority cannot be allowed to rule. But until this issue becomes one which cannot be employed to wage a kulturkampf against traditional religious believers, one suspects that many, if not most Americans will not be comfortable in throwing out existing laws. As Nate Silver notes in a blog post in the New York Times that supported Obama’s decision and considered it politically advantageous, though attitudes have shifted, as many Americans are strongly opposed to the measure as those who enthusiastically support it.

In this light, while it is possible the president’s statement will help with his base, a reasoned if low-key defense of traditional values will not hurt his opponent.

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Will Obama Announce Marriage “Evolution” at Award Ceremony?

The Obama campaign finally weighed in on the gay marriage debate this week, criticizing a North Carolina referendum banning gay marriage and civil unions that passed overwhelmingly yesterday:

“The president has long opposed divisive and discriminatory efforts to deny rights and benefits to same sex couples,” Obama North Carolina campaign spokesman Cameron French said, in a Tuesday statement on the vote over Amendment 1.

“He believes the North Carolina measure singles out and discriminates against committed gay and lesbian couples, which is why he did not support it,” said French. “President Obama has long believed that gay and lesbian couples deserve the same rights and legal protections as straight couples and is disappointed in the passage of this amendment. On a federal level, he has ended the legal defense of the Defense of Marriage Act and extended key benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees.”

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The Obama campaign finally weighed in on the gay marriage debate this week, criticizing a North Carolina referendum banning gay marriage and civil unions that passed overwhelmingly yesterday:

“The president has long opposed divisive and discriminatory efforts to deny rights and benefits to same sex couples,” Obama North Carolina campaign spokesman Cameron French said, in a Tuesday statement on the vote over Amendment 1.

“He believes the North Carolina measure singles out and discriminates against committed gay and lesbian couples, which is why he did not support it,” said French. “President Obama has long believed that gay and lesbian couples deserve the same rights and legal protections as straight couples and is disappointed in the passage of this amendment. On a federal level, he has ended the legal defense of the Defense of Marriage Act and extended key benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees.”

This doesn’t indicate a shift in position for Obama, who supports civil unions but has supposedly been in a vague state of evolution on gay marriage for the past year and a half. But the lack of specifics in his statement – notice he doesn’t make a distinction between gay marriage and civil unions – shows how much effort he’s making to remain ambiguous on the issue, at least for now.

According to ABC News, Obama’s cabinet members have suddenly gone silent on the subject on gay marriage. But the issue is unlikely to go away, thanks to some awkward campaign scheduling next Monday. Obama is slated to attend an award ceremony with a prominent gay marriage advocate, and then make an appearance at a fundraiser with Ricky Martin. Seriously:

There’s a chance that the radio silence might be broken at any public events cabinet secretaries have in the near future, when a reporter could sneak in a question about gay marriage. And the topic is likely to resurface on Monday, if not frequently before then, when Obama accepts a “medal of distinction” from Barnard College, which also is giving the award to Evan Wolfson, the founder of the pro-gay group Freedom to Marry.

That same day, Obama is scheduled to collect checks from donors in New York City at a fundraiser with Ricky Martin aimed at the gay community.

Also, note this. The gay marriage advocate has already promised to raise the issue with the president at the Barnard College event, reports ABC News:

Wolfson said that when he meets Obama at Barnard, “I will encourage him to do what Vice President Biden has done to complete his journey in support of the freedom to marry and join the majority for marriage.”

Obama can’t possibly be crazy enough to meet up with gay marriage activists in a public setting at a time like this, can he? Maybe Ed Morrissey is right, and there are too many coincidences here. Any chance that Obama announces the completion of his gay marriage evolution at this Barnard College award ceremony, and then swoops into the gay community fundraiser with Ricky Martin, effectively solving his campaign’s troubles with Hollywood and gay donors all in a single day? That would certainly be the perfect time and place to do it, and it would leave Mitt Romney trapped in Obama’s self-created news cycle once again.

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Poll Shows Traditional Marriage Amendment Poised for NC Win

Public Policy Polling finds wide support for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and civil unions in North Carolina, the last poll before voting opened today.

A final poll of likely North Carolina voters conducted over the weekend continues to give a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and civil unions an easy margin of victory in Tuesday’s election while the Democratic contest for governor is tightening.

The referendum holds a 16-point advantage, 55 percent in favor and 39 percent against, according to the Public Policy Polling survey, a left-leaning Raleigh-based firm. The numbers shifted little in the final week as big-names on either side of the debate – Rev. Billy Graham for and former President Bill Clinton against – made final pleas to persuade voters.

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Public Policy Polling finds wide support for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and civil unions in North Carolina, the last poll before voting opened today.

A final poll of likely North Carolina voters conducted over the weekend continues to give a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and civil unions an easy margin of victory in Tuesday’s election while the Democratic contest for governor is tightening.

The referendum holds a 16-point advantage, 55 percent in favor and 39 percent against, according to the Public Policy Polling survey, a left-leaning Raleigh-based firm. The numbers shifted little in the final week as big-names on either side of the debate – Rev. Billy Graham for and former President Bill Clinton against – made final pleas to persuade voters.

As I wrote earlier today, there are benefits for Obama coming out in favor of gay marriage. The PPP poll today gives the flip side of that. Obama barely eked out a win in North Carolina in 2008, and he can’t afford to lose much support there. But as the PPP crosstabs show, 35 percent of Democrats and 34 percent of independents oppose gay marriage. That number jumps to 63 percent among African American voters.

Earlier today I also questioned whether the gay marriage issue would actually have much of an influence on how these groups vote. But support for the amendment really does seem to be energizing voters. The Charlotte Observer reports that voter turnout broke records today, even surpassing the contested primary between then-Sen. Obama and Hillary Clinton in 2008. That shows a strong commitment to the issue, which is likely behind Obama’s reluctance to take a clear stance.

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Gay Marriage Distraction Intentional?

Ed Morrissey has an interesting column in This Week, arguing that Joe Biden’s gay marriage comments may have been a shrewd political calculation as opposed to a slipup during routine bloviation. I think he’s giving Biden too much credit, but there’s definitely a case to be made that this helps the Obama campaign in several ways:

Consider the coincidence of Education Secretary Arne Duncan offering a corroborating point of view the day after Biden’s statement. Brought to MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” to discuss Teacher Appreciation Week, Duncan was greeted by TIME’s Mark Halperin with this “icebreaker” question: “Do you believe that same-sex men and women should be able to get legally married in the United States?” Despite the tortured syntax of the query and an objection to the question by a “Morning Joe” panelist, Duncan gave an ironic “I do” in reply, pushing the issue even farther into the public consciousness, and giving Biden some much-needed political cover.

Nor do the coincidences end there. This comes just after the much-publicized departure of foreign policy adviser Richard Grenell from the Romney campaign. …

Even more likely, though, Biden’s gambit was an attempt to keep the media preoccupied with issues other than jobs and the economy. It’s also no coincidence that this eruption came just 48 hours after another disappointing jobs report.

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Ed Morrissey has an interesting column in This Week, arguing that Joe Biden’s gay marriage comments may have been a shrewd political calculation as opposed to a slipup during routine bloviation. I think he’s giving Biden too much credit, but there’s definitely a case to be made that this helps the Obama campaign in several ways:

Consider the coincidence of Education Secretary Arne Duncan offering a corroborating point of view the day after Biden’s statement. Brought to MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” to discuss Teacher Appreciation Week, Duncan was greeted by TIME’s Mark Halperin with this “icebreaker” question: “Do you believe that same-sex men and women should be able to get legally married in the United States?” Despite the tortured syntax of the query and an objection to the question by a “Morning Joe” panelist, Duncan gave an ironic “I do” in reply, pushing the issue even farther into the public consciousness, and giving Biden some much-needed political cover.

Nor do the coincidences end there. This comes just after the much-publicized departure of foreign policy adviser Richard Grenell from the Romney campaign. …

Even more likely, though, Biden’s gambit was an attempt to keep the media preoccupied with issues other than jobs and the economy. It’s also no coincidence that this eruption came just 48 hours after another disappointing jobs report.

Read the whole thing if you have a chance. Even if Biden’s gay marriage comments weren’t intentional, the Romney campaign will need to be careful with how they proceed on this. According to a new Gallup poll out today, fully half of Americans are in favor of same-sex marriage, compared to 48 percent who oppose. Several of Romney’s most prominent donors are also active in the fight for gay marriage rights.

Many of Obama’s key donors support gay marriage as well. So while the issue is a pleasant distraction for him from economic talk, and yet another opening to bludgeon Romney as far-right and out-of-touch, it also puts the president in a bind. Already some top Obama donors are withholding money from his campaign based on his rejection of a gay rights executive order, Greg Sargent reports. And Obama’s hedging on the gay marriage issue is sure to fuel the perception that he’s choosing politics over principles.

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“Clear Distinction” Between Romney and Obama on Gay Marriage?

The White House is still mopping up after Joe Biden’s comments on gay marriage yesterday. At today’s press briefing, White House spokesman Jay Carney batted down questions about whether President Obama has changed his stance on gay marriage, saying he had “no update on the president’s personal views.”

Meanwhile, David Axelrod sought to change the subject by highlighting the “very clear distinction” between Romney and Obama on the issue:

Though Axelrod sounded reluctant to discuss the issue again Monday — after tweeting about it Sunday— he quickly contrasted the Obama administration’s position on gay rights with Romney’s record.

The former Massachusetts governor “has funded efforts to roll back marriage laws in California and other places,” Axelrod said, adding that Romney “believes that we need a constitutional amendment banning the right of gay couples to marry and would take us backward not forward. There’s a very clear distinction in this race.”

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The White House is still mopping up after Joe Biden’s comments on gay marriage yesterday. At today’s press briefing, White House spokesman Jay Carney batted down questions about whether President Obama has changed his stance on gay marriage, saying he had “no update on the president’s personal views.”

Meanwhile, David Axelrod sought to change the subject by highlighting the “very clear distinction” between Romney and Obama on the issue:

Though Axelrod sounded reluctant to discuss the issue again Monday — after tweeting about it Sunday— he quickly contrasted the Obama administration’s position on gay rights with Romney’s record.

The former Massachusetts governor “has funded efforts to roll back marriage laws in California and other places,” Axelrod said, adding that Romney “believes that we need a constitutional amendment banning the right of gay couples to marry and would take us backward not forward. There’s a very clear distinction in this race.”

No argument there – Romney and Obama have taken different positions on gay marriage-related policy. And while the president hasn’t explicitly spelled out his support for gay marriage, the Obama team has made sure that even the slowest learners recognize his true position on the issue, which he can’t take publicly (yet) because of “politics.”

But the Romney-Obama comparison is also a distraction, and it’s one that’s seemed to have worked so far with Obama’s liberal supporters. The question at hand isn’t whether Obama has taken more laissez faire positions on gay marriage than Mitt Romney. It’s whether he’s finally going to dispense with the charade and publicly acknowledge his own personal opinion on it. So far, many liberals have given Obama a pass because his policies are supportive of gay rights and (for the most part) gay marriage. Because gay marriage is chiefly a state-by-state issue right now, does it really matter what the president thinks?

Yes – it matters because he’s using it as a dodge. If Obama had never mentioned the issue, then there would be far less interest in his personal views. But he said he believed that marriage is between a man and a woman multiple times during his 2008 campaign. He then claimed his position was “evolving” during a meeting with bloggers in October 2010. That was more than a year and a half ago. How long does it take for one to “evolve”?

It’s time for Obama to clarify his position, particularly because it could have an impact on the way some of his supporters vote. The media wouldn’t let Romney get away with such evasiveness on the issue, and it shouldn’t allow it from Obama.

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The White House’s Gay Marriage Dance

Vice President Biden kinda-sorta embraced gay marriage during an interview with David Gregory yesterday – which the administration promptly downplayed – and this morning Education Secretary Arne Duncan came out in favor of same-sex marriage on MSNBC (via Buzzfeed):

The Obama administration tiptoed even closer to supporting gay marriage today, with a second member of the Cabinet coming out flatly in support of treating same-sex couples the same as couples of opposite sexes.

TIME’s Mark Halperin asked Education Secretary Arne Duncan on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” today whether he believes “that same-sex men and women should be able to get legally married in the United States?”

“Yes, I do,” Duncan replied.

Read More

Vice President Biden kinda-sorta embraced gay marriage during an interview with David Gregory yesterday – which the administration promptly downplayed – and this morning Education Secretary Arne Duncan came out in favor of same-sex marriage on MSNBC (via Buzzfeed):

The Obama administration tiptoed even closer to supporting gay marriage today, with a second member of the Cabinet coming out flatly in support of treating same-sex couples the same as couples of opposite sexes.

TIME’s Mark Halperin asked Education Secretary Arne Duncan on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” today whether he believes “that same-sex men and women should be able to get legally married in the United States?”

“Yes, I do,” Duncan replied.

This certainly gives the impression the administration is relaxing its gay marriage stance. But is it smart or not? Best case scenario for the Obama campaign is if gay marriage supporters take these comments as a winking endorsement from the White House, and leave it at that. It’s a bit risky at this point for the president to personally come out in favor of gay marriage, particularly when many black Democratic voters adamantly oppose it. But as we know, Obama would obviously have more “flexibility” –in this area and others – if he’s reelected. And he likely hopes that message has been subtly transmitted to gay rights advocates through Biden’s remarks.

The political downside of Biden and Duncan voicing their support for gay marriage is that there will no doubt be a frantic rush to parse out whether Obama has personally “evolved” any further on the issue. Stay tuned for Jay Carney fielding gay marriage questions at the briefing. Obama will almost certainly try to avoid taking a firm stance on this. But if frustrated gay marriage advocates get tired of letting him dance around the issue, that could cause problems for the president.

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